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Don’t make life easy for your opponents

opposing headsA few days ago I was having a conversation with a colleague who asked me for poker advice. He was failing to make any kind of meaningful income from the game despite studying and reading numerous books. I asked him to show me a sample poker session in his database and it was obvious to me what the problem was straight away. His style of play was easy to combat because he wasn’t paying attention to how easy it was for his opponents to counter it. Let us look at an example here to show you what I mean.

He was playing at NL100 full ring games and whenever he raised from early position or even early middle position then he always had high cards. Whenever he limped then he had hands like pocket pairs that he was looking to speculate with. When he called raises in position, his range was wider and included pocket pairs, suited connectors and other Broadway type hands. He only ever stacked off in big pots with the nuts or close to it and his bluffs were single shot affairs. In short, his style lacked imagination and creativity and although he was solid, he was also transparent.

I told him that for any style to work in poker, it had to do one simple thing and that was to be difficult to play against, for your opponents. To do this means having to look at your own style from the perspective of your opponent. You need to ask yourself “how would I play against another player that was using my style”? When you do this little exercise then it can be very eye opening how easy you really are to play against.

For example, if you limp in with speculative hands looking to hit big flops and stack someone then this just invites some aggressive opponents to raise you from position and force you to hit flops. This is weak poker and isn’t conducive to playing successfully. Against opponents that are sophisticated, you have to inject an element of randomness into your actions or at least try very hard to balance your ranges. These days the money doesn’t flow easily like it used to years ago. You have to grind the money out of your opponents most of the time but if they are proficient poker players then this is easier said than done.

For example, if you raise from position with a very wide range and fold all of your weaker hands to 3-bets then this strategy is amazingly simple to counter and will lead to you losing money. Your opponents will expect you to raise from position anyway and will be ready and prepared for the move.

So to throw your opponents a curve ball, so to speak, you need to do the exact opposite of what they expect you to do. Some of the best times to bluff are when your opponents think that you are not bluffing.

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